Judge asks woman if she would 'close' legs to stop sexual assault

A New Jersey judge is accused of violating the state code of judicial conduct after asking a woman during a hearing if she closed her legs during a possible sexual assault.

Superior Court Judge John Russo faces discipline and could lose his position following the eye-popping exchange in his courtroom in 2016.

A defense lawyer was grilling the woman about the alleged rape when Russo intervened, according to the judicial board's formal complaint.

"Would it be fair to say that you are capable of asserting yourself against unwanted sexual advances?" the lawyer asked the woman.

"I guess so. I don't really know," the woman responded.

Judge Russo then said, "I'm sorry, but, 'I guess so,' is not an answer. Do you understand the question?"

"Not really, I don't understand the question," she answered.

Russo then said he would ask the question: "Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?"

"Yes," the woman responded.

"How would you do that?" the judge asked, according to the complaint.

"I'd probably physically harm them somehow," she said.

"Short of physically harming them?" the judge inquired.

"Tell them no," she said.

"Tell them no. What else?"

"To stop," she answered.

Later, the judge would ask, "close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?"

The board charges that Judge Russo "was discourteous and mistreated the victim" as he assumed the role of defense counsel.

The complaint lists other grievances against Russo, including a "conflict of interest" claim in a case where he did not recuse himself despite knowing multiple parties in a case. Russo was placed on paid administrative leave last year.

Lawyer David Corrigan told the Asbury Park Press that "we are pleased that Judge Russo will have a public hearing regarding the allegations which have been raised against him."

"We have respect for both the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, as well as the process. Therefore, we don't believe it would be appropriate to have any further comment, pending the hearing," he said.

The Ocean County judge is a former mayor of Toms River, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Judge Russo has 20 days to respond to the charges, which were filed on Monday.

RELATED: Women who have accused presidents of sexual assault

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Women who have accused presidents of sexual assault
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Women who have accused presidents of sexual assault

Actress Heather Lind says that former President George H.W. Bush inappropriately touched her.

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Juanita Broaddrick (pictured with her husband David) claims former President Bill Clinton, when he was running for Governor of Arkansas in 1978, sexually assaulted her in a Little Rock hotel room. 

(Photo: Reuters)

Paula Jones (pictured in the December, 2000 issue of Penthouse magazine) accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment.

Jones is shown in a photograph from the layout, released October 23, 2000. (Photo via Reuters)

Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky had a now-infamous affair with former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and has characterized Clinton as having taken advantage of her during their affair.

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In an unauthorized biography of former first lady Nancy Reagan, Kitty Kelley published claims by actress Selene Walters (not pictured) that then-actor and future-president Ronald Reagan (pictured) forced her to have sex with him in the 1950s.

(Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey accused former President Bill Clinton of inappropriately touching her. 

(Photo: Reuters) 

Jessica Leeds came forward in 2016 to say that Presidend Donald Trump sexually assaulted her on a plane in the 1980s.

(Photo by Celeste Sloman for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump's ex-wife Ivana Trump claimed in a book published after they split that he violently forced himself on her during their marriage. 

(Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)

Thomas Jefferson is said to have raped Sally Hemings, his slave, and had six children with her -- all of whom were born into slavery. 

(Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

Allegations surrounding President Grover Cleveland involve a 38-year-old woman named Maria Halpin, who he allegedly raped after "courting" her and threatened her if she spoke about what occurred.

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

President Richard Nixon was accused of "starting to make moves and then withdrawing" by secretary Nell Yates (pictured, left) as well as inappropriately touching other secretaries. 

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/ Getty Images)

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